Out west – days 14, 15, 16, 17, 18



Day 17 – Inside the Valles Caldera
Day 17 – View of Los Alamos from the Pajarito Ski Hill

Sunday, Day 14 – Flagstaff, AZ
Bike to work week kick-off parade, Garmin search and non-rescue, Lowell observatory Saturn rings
We slept in a bit on Sunday having a leisurely morning before Kip and I took all the kids on a bike ride down to the “bike to work week” kick-off parade and bike swap while Kristine relaxed at the house. We made it just in time to tag onto the back of the parade. Lots of people were dressed up in costumes, and there was a competition for the most creative human powered vehicle — the winner ended up being a bike with trailer adorned with butterfly wings that flapped as the bike was ridden.

Day 14 – human powered parade

One guy did tricks on his BMX bike that Josiah really enjoyed, including standing up on the back pegs of the bike and letting the bike coast downhill no-handed. When he started to pick up a lot of speed he hopped off the bike and started running beside the bike while the bike continued on alone. Then before the bike fell he grabbed it and hopped back on again. My favorite part of the parade was the Alpine Pedaler (see video) with up to eight people lined up in two rows facing each other pedaling hard to move the large vehicle. The driver navigated at the front like a stage coach. After the parade we went to the bike swap where we got two helmets to replace the kids old helmets. Analise got one that exactly matched Eliza’s new helmet.

Day 14 – matching helmets

After lunch at the Beaver Street Brewery, we headed out to look for my Garmin – driving along some of the forest roads that were part of the race course before parking in a shady spot so I could bike the rest of the way to the area where I thought the Garmin had fallen off. After nearly two hours of searching, I couldn’t find it. There was so much loose pine straw and tall grass in the section where it came off that it would have probably taken many people and hours and hours of careful scanning to find it since my search didn’t turn up anything. C’est la vie.

We headed back and had a really nice chicken taco dinner with everyone including Beth who was back from work. Frozen yogurt for dessert, but the real after-dinner treat was heading up to the Lowell Observatory to explore the museum and look through the 100+ year old 24-inch Clark telescope at the rings of Saturn. The kids loved it, although they were a bit tired.

Monday, Day 15 – Flagstaff, AZ
Road bike ride with Kip, Lowell Observatory revisited, primitive camping on the side of 12,356′ Agassiz feet
After Kip’s kids were off to school, Kip and I went on a 3 hour ride that headed out one of the more popular road riding roads – Lake Mary. On the way back in, we saw a HUGE bald eagle fishing in one of the lakes. Then we headed up a popular climb up the Campbell Mesa to the research telescopes for the Lowell Observatory.

Day 15 – campbell mesa research telescopes for the lowell observatory

Kristine and I took the kids to the Lowell Observatory where we took the observatory tour. Analise got to move the dome on the observatory and look through a telescope at the sun – the sunspots were really cool. Afterwards, it was a stop by Mama Burger and then on up to the Snow Bowl ski area for a real wilderness experience camping. Ironically, we were high enough up on the mountain gto get 2 bars of a 3G connection probably from a tower back down in Flagstaff. On Monday we hiked up to a meadow to watch the sunset and then look at the stars before the full moon came out. Then on Tuesday we hiked to some cool petroglyphs, where Josiah and I did some rock climbing to make it up high on the cliff in search of more petroglyphs.

Day 16 – petroglyph hike

Tuesday, Day 16 – Flagstaff, AZ to Los Alamos, NM
Meteor crater, transit of Venus, Snow bowl ski resort climb 2x
We started out Tuesday with the hike to the Indian petroglyphs before Kristine and the kids headed back to Flagstaff. I stayed behind to climb the Snow Bowl road a couple times followed by a nice tail-wind ride back to Flagstaff. From there we set out on the first leg of our trip back home to Alabama – driving to Los Alamos, NM where I had spent a little bit of time during high school on a two-week science camp.

Day 16 – observing the transit of Venus from meteor crater

On our drive, we swung by Meteor Crater where we used our solar filter glasses to watch part of the transit of Venus. It was hard to see at first, but eventually you could see the tiny dot of Venus making its way across the face of the sun. Every time we stopped for gas or food on our drive, we would pull out the solar glasses and check out the progress of Venus. Analise and I got to see it the best at a Sonic near Houck, AZ where Venus had moved to about the middle right of the sun. We stopped one more time a little before sunset and it was really, really hard to see but we think there was a tiny dot just below the middle. The transit of Venus in front of the sun won’t happen for another 117 years, so we felt really lucky to be able to see it.

Wednesday, Day 17 – Los Alamos, NM
Bandelier National Monument, Valles Caldera, Pizza Timeout Express
Day 17 – Indian ruins at Bandelier National Monument

Kristine took the kids up to the Bandelier National Monument to explore the Indian ruins while I went on the best ride of this trip so far — a long climb from White Rock, NM up and over the side of the Valles Caldera down into the huge caldera from this supervolcano that erupted a long time ago. The climb was awesome consisting of some long gradual sections as well as some really steep sections, but the best part of the ride was being inside the massive caldera which is now a giant valley with mountains in the middle that are actually huge lava domes. On the way back down, I swung through Los Alamos and stumbled upon the Pajarito ski climb. This was a really steep 4 mile climb with amazing views of the Rio Grande river valley far below. The descent down this climb was the fastest of the trip with several 50+mph sections. Back at the hotel, I met Kristine and the kids where we walked down the street to Pizza Timeout Express for a fun pizza dinner and games.

Day 17 – view of Los Alamos from Pajarito ski hill

Thursday, Day 18 – Los Alamos, NM to Tulsa, OK
Pajarito Ski Hill revisited, Drive to Tulsa
Before we took off on the long drive to Tulsa, I had a chance to ride up the Pajarito Ski Hill again, but this time I started all the way down at the Rio Grande River. The 18 mile climb went from about 5300′ to 9000′ making it an HC climb. It started out gradual with one steeper stretch, before staying gradual all the way to the base of the Pajarito Ski Hill where the road really kicks up for the last 5 miles of the climb. I was trying to go easy to save up my legs for the first day of Tulsa Tough on Friday, but an 18 mile climb is an 18 mile climb.

After finishing up the ride, we loaded up the car and headed to the Los Alamos science museum where we learned a lot about nuclear research and the history of the nuclear bomb. Very interesting and intriguing. Then we took a scenic drive through Santa Fe on our way to the very cool two-lane US highway that took us over to I-40.

That’s a summary of our trip, but the pictures below tell a much better story:


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